The homeless and at-risk youth who come to Larkin Street Youth Services for help have many difficulties to overcome before they can rebuild their lives. But before they can begin to benefit from the full range of youth programs Larkin Street offers, they must have their most basic needs taken care of. They need nutritious food and basic medical attention to replenish their energy and their health. They need showers and clean clothing to keep them clean and warm and they need a safe haven to give them respite from the violence and exploitation they face on the streets.
Homeless youth in San Francisco can find these basic services at the Larkin Street Engagement & Community Center on Golden Gate Avenue, Larkin Street’s flagship youth program, which opened in 1984 in the Polk Gulch neighborhood and serves hundreds of homeless youth every year. The Engagement & Community Center is a safe haven for at-risk youth seeking help and is staffed by caring professionals who provide immediate intervention and short-term counseling to prepare kids to start their journeys toward productive adulthood.
The Engagement & Community Center is more than just a place to hang out. It also offers connection to education and offers recreational activities where they can connect with peers and adults. Through groups, outings and one-on-one conversations, Engagement & Community Center staff support youth with a variety of special needs such as education, family reunification, legal matters, and sexual identity issues. It also serves as a portal to further services. Each new visitor to the Center receives an individual assessment to determine what other services—such as medical care, counseling, or housing—would best suit their immediate and long-term needs.
For some young people, the Engagement & Community Center is just a place to get away from the streets for a little while. But for most, it is a stop on the way to continued recovery, offering a chance to rebuild their lives and leave the streets for good.
Every year, close to 1,000 young people receive services at the Engagement & Community Center.